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Author Topic: Project Bluebird  (Read 1759 times)
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cornutt
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« on: April 22, 2010, 11:39:21 PM »

This is my name for the new showcase routine that my instructor and I are working on.  The meaning of the name will become apparent in time.   Cool  Go read this post for the background on this new routine, and why I think it is worthy of blogging. 

I played the music for the first time for my instructor last Wednesday, and we spent a few minutes getting on the same page as to what we want to accomplish.  I had told her about the song and its back-story last week, so she already know what to expect in terms of the theme, but I really wanted her to hear the actual music, both to get the mood of it, and to listen for any potential gotchas.  The song basically has four parts: the first two parts are rumba, the third is a somewhat slow Viennese waltz, and the fourth part is hard to characterize because was recorded in a somewhat improvisational style and is not in strict tempo.  The one thing we noted is that the drums are playing a bit of a dotted-note rhythm in the rumba section -- the beat that would normally be on 3 is actually on the "and" prior to 3.  Not a big deal; we can handle that. 

One of the big challenges is that the song is very long, almost eight minutes.  The only part that I think can be cut is a segment of abou 30 seconds at the beginning of the fourth part where there is just a held chord on keyboards, underlaid with some audio from a TV documentary.  It's kind of neat, but it isn't essential for the dance, and anyway the audience probably won't be able to hear it since it is low volume.  I'll take that bit out, but it's still a very long song for a performance routine. 

This evening, I listened through it, counting bars in the various sections and making notes as to where transitions occur.  Then I thought about the entrance a bit.  The beginning of the song fades in very gradually.  It starts with four bars of synth bass and drums which is barely audible, then keyboards and guitar come in, and it goes 16 bars before the vocals start.  I'm thinking that the way to do it is to have my instructor go out and take her mark before the music starts, then I'll walk out in time as the music fades in.  I'll have to measure and count steps at the studio to be sure I know how much distance I can cover in the number of bars available.  After that, I went through some DVDs and noted rumba steps that might be useful in the first section, which I'm thinking should consist mainly of turning figures and lifts.  The second section will have a change of mood and will travel up and down the floor a lot.  It needs to create an impression of speed and motion, leading into the VW section which is really going to zoom around the room.  The fourth section -- well, I already know basically what I want to do, but I'll leave it as a surprise for later. 
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cornutt
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« Reply #1 on: April 29, 2010, 01:48:58 AM »

Over the weekend, I listened closely to the music, taking notes about how many bars long each section is.  I also thought a bit about the general flow of the routine.  As I noted, there are two rumba sections.  The first is where the first verse, such as it is, is sung.  The second, shorter section is a guitar solo, and is the section where we are going to be moving up and down the floor, and doing some stuff with a bit more attitude than is typical for rumba. 

We didn't get much time to work on it today.  We had to schedule around a visiting coach, and my instructor had students taking coaching before and after my normal lesson time, and it wound up we only had 30 minutes.  We worked first on a rumba spin combination that then sets up a lift.  There's one foot transition that I haven't worked out -- the lift is lunge-type to my left, but at the start of it, I'm already on my left foot.  Need to work that out.  We then worked on a Viennese combination of spins and rondes that end with us in a back-to-back position.  We don't know where we are going to use these yet.  There's a lot of time to fill.

After my instructor had to go work with her next student coaching, I was able to get the music for a few minutes and walk though the beginning I have in mind.  And I noted something: the song fades in at the beginning, and in the studio, with chit-chat going on and fans running and so forth, you can't hear the very beginning.  I had suspected this might be the case, and it leaves the problem of how do you tell where the music is when you finally start to hear it?  When I edit the music, I may have to insert a cue for myself.  Something the audience won't notice, such as some kind of subtle percussion sound. 
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cornutt
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« Reply #2 on: May 09, 2010, 11:03:24 PM »

"Three hundred miles an hour, on water..."

Last Wednesday, we got started on the actual choreography.  We worked on the introduction.  It was an interesting process.  Mendy's been my instructor for a long time and we've done just about everything there is to do in ballroom dancing together... except design choreo.  So neither of us was quite sure how to get the process started, or how we were going to work together.  To get things going, I led off by telling her about my basic idea for the intro.  Concept: She is already at the center of the floor before the music starts.  As it fades in, I walk out to her, doing some type of rumba walk in whatever rhythm gives the right number of steps to cover the distance in the beats available.  When we do a showcase at our studio, we drape heavy curtains across one end of the ballroom to make a small backstage area; there is one opening in the middle and one at each end.  I'll listen backstage for the fade-in of the music and will step out through the middle opening on the correct count. 

So we started from there.  Over the next hour the choreo evolved very rapidly; we both fed off of each other's ideas and stuff got put in, pulled out, and shuffled around at a good clip.  At one point we decided that she should begin from a crouched position, then we had to take that out because something else would have required that she be facing away from the audience, but then we accidentally ran into a way to fix that so that she was facing the audience, so we put it back in.  We developed a concept of a "false start" where we start the dance, but then stop, and I mime some adjustments, sort of as if you got into a car, started the engine, and then realized that you need to adjust the seat and move the mirrors before you drive off.  We then worked off of some things that we had talked about for the later stages of the dance: some rock steps to a cross-body lead, to a half a New Yorker, and then to some swivels and knee lifts leading to several combinations of mirror-image spins ending in lines (this last bit is something that will be reprised, in a different form, later).

With one run-through with the music, we discovered something I had feared: unless the room is very quiet, the first four bars of the music cannot be heard.  Since those bars are followed by a pattern that repeats four times, it make it difficult to tell where the music is when it first becomes audible.  I may have to see if I can apply some compression to that part and speed up the fade-in. 

For our first hour of doing choreography together, I thought it went really well.  Still, I've got to keep an eye on the calendar... we've got 12 weeks until the show, and Mendy will be unavailable for one of those weeks because she's got to take some other students to a comp. 
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elisedance
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« Reply #3 on: May 10, 2010, 05:19:13 AM »

wow.  sounds like a heap of fun too Smiley
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cornutt
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« Reply #4 on: June 03, 2010, 10:41:44 PM »

"In your purpose built machine..."

Making progress.  Last week we had a discussion about the length of the routine -- my instructor decided it was too long to do in a show.  I was a bit perturbed about that, since the song doesn't lend itself to severe editing.  What we finally decided to do was split the routine into two parts.  We'll dance the first part in the first half of the show, and the second part in the second half.  I appreciate her offering to do that, actually, since it probably means an additional costume change for her (she's dancing with other students too).  And actually, this could work out to be pretty cool; it'll be sort of like a two-movement piece of music.  The song transitions from rumba to VW about halfway through, so that's a natural split point. 

We finished what we wanted to do with the rumba, just about.  There will probably be a couple of more tweaks, but it's the right length, it expresses what I want it to express, and it leads off the floor as the music fades out for that part.  Contrary to our usual practice, we'll leave the floor at the end of the first part without acknowledging the audience, so when we later re-emerge in the same costumes, it will emphasize the continuity between parts. 

We did some work on the Viennese Waltz part.  Mendy showed me how to do a death spiral, which I've never done before.  From my standpoint, the good thing about death spirals is that I only have to do the spiral part.   Grin  Mendy wants me to do a bit of solo work at that point, which I'm actually kind of nervous about, oddly. 

She's on vacation this week, so I did some additional practice by myself.  I went through the latter half of the VW part (which is not in strict tempo) and actually worked up choreo for it, all by my lonesome.  Doubtless this will only be a starting point, since Mendy will almost certainly have additional ideas; nonetheless, I was kind of proud of myself for that. 
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MusicChica
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« Reply #5 on: June 04, 2010, 09:23:02 AM »

When's this showcase again? *checks calendar*

Mendy showed me how to do a death spiral, which I've never done before.  From my standpoint, the good thing about death spirals is that I only have to do the spiral part.   Grin 

Those scare me. Shocked
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elisedance
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« Reply #6 on: June 23, 2010, 03:01:41 PM »

I think we are due an update here - YOO HOOO!!!
Cheesy
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If you must leave the house, go build a home...

The limit of your love is also the limit of your art...
cornutt
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« Reply #7 on: June 23, 2010, 03:45:58 PM »

I know, I know... there have been complications for the last couple of weeks...

We did finish outlining the choreo last week.  I have split the music into the two parts and done a bit of further editing.  We're going to work on it some more this evening; I'm hoping we can get our first run-throughs all the way through with the music. 
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elisedance
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« Reply #8 on: June 28, 2010, 05:38:06 AM »

durn, we need a video section!
wonder if the smurfs (SMF) plan to add that ...
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Lioness
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WWW
« Reply #9 on: June 28, 2010, 05:58:50 AM »

You can upload them to youtube and then embed them...
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elisedance
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« Reply #10 on: June 28, 2010, 06:34:48 AM »

Oh, haven't tried that... I've just put the links directly on the page...
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If you must leave the house, go build a home...

The limit of your love is also the limit of your art...
cornutt
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« Reply #11 on: October 28, 2010, 09:15:35 PM »

Project Bluebird is back under way!  We're going to try to dance it in a December showcase.  Last night, my instructor and I looked through the videos that we had made previously and walked through it.  In 45 minutes, we not only re-constructed the rumba half of the routine, but we actually fixed a couple of problems that had eluded us before.  We were both surprised at how fast it came back together and how, coming back to it with fresh eyes after a few months, solutions for some problems that had eluded us became obvious right away.  Good to be back in the groove with it.

We even had a few minutes left to play with the VW half of the routine, which we never really finished the first time.  We actually executed an all-out death spiral -- a few months ago, my instructor's health problems were preventing her from being able to do that.  Doing it the first time was scary, but now I know what it's supposed to feel like.
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elisedance
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« Reply #12 on: October 29, 2010, 06:02:05 AM »

All out death spiral??  Sometimes we internationalites get jealous...
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If you must leave the house, go build a home...

The limit of your love is also the limit of your art...
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